Review: Tom Mason’s Under a Mistletoe Sky
Tom Mason Wishes You a Merry Christmas… Arrrrrrgh!
Tom Mason’s third yuletide magnum opus, Under a Mistletoe Sky, is a Michael Webb-produced rock & roll extravaganza. Since his songs are all new, they might give not give you the warm-and-fuzzies like the tunes in A Charlie Brown Christmas you heard when you were four. But every Christmas classic has a birth. And few of them have ever rocked and rolled as exuberantly as Mason does on this platter, with none of the usually inherent hazards in the vein (vain?) of Kathie Lee Gifford’s “Oh Come Let Us Adore Me.” On Under a Mistletoe Sky, no grandmas get run over by reindeers, and Mason has — thank the Lord above — no gift to bring pa rum pa pum pum, nor any other perennial favorites that make you want to crawl into a hot bath with a box cutter and open up your carotid.
The title track is a bonafide rocker with a slide solo nicking “Oh Holy Night.” Then the sound goes a little closer to N’awlins on “Crazy for Christmas” and later on with the Little Feat-ish “Santa’s Little Helper.” “Come on Mr. Claus” is a rocker you could imagine St. Nick jamming on the 8-track player in his sled. “Gift-Wrapped Girl” is lust with a beat (maybe you should skip over that one when the kids are in the room). And another of special note is the radical left turn into Steely Dan-ish jazz on “Santa Says Keep it Cool.”
How many gigs have you ever played dressed like a pirate and talking like one onstage? (Halloween gigs don’t count.) How many? I didn’t think so. And how many Christmas albums have you recorded on which you wrote all the songs? I’ll jump out on a limb and guess “none.” Because you’re not Tom Mason. A longtime esteemed East Nashvillian who has played guitar for many acts and made records under his own flag for 25 years, who’s also had substantial work as an actor.
Mason not only dresses like a pirate onstage, but he also makes a damn living at it! Yes, there is actually a pirate music scene. Here and there around the world, people go apeshit for “shiver me timbers” sea shanties by artists in period costume. There are actual festivals for this behavior. So, our hero fronts Tom Mason & The Blue Buccaneers, and on International Talk Like a Pirate Day he cleans up.
Piracy aside, Mason’s serious songs (and the fun ones too) show him as a man who’s explored Chuck Berry from the ground up; and Tom Petty, and a bit of The Georgia Satellites. He might get paid at night with a map to a treasure chest full of gold, but his actual musical soul and catalog are hardly all yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.
Pick up Under a Mistletoe Sky and play it at your Zoom Christmas party. It’s a rocker, it’s fun, and by golly, it’s Christmas, from the first note to the last.